Our writer for the 4th, Lander Hultin, has left the blog to focus on his teaching career. We will miss him and thank him for his pieces so far. His replacement is Andrew Steiner. Give him a Post Calvin welcome!
Andrew Steiner ’(12) got involved with Chimes his junior year and served as head copy editor his senior year. He often wishes he’d started earlier because the experience did a lot to sharpen his own voice. He’s been writing short stories and attempting longer ones since middle school and has been published a couple of times outside the Calvin community, in the Minnetonka Review (now defunct) and Grain. He works at Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank in Comstock Park and lives in Grand Rapids’ Oakdale neighborhood.
4:53, and the security guard and the librarian are watching his uncertain progress down the steps. He lurches onto the sidewalk and stands there confused. He looks back at them, clutching the 20oz bottle of Brisk in his hand, trying to parse their wary sadness. He gets his feet moving under him, steps laterally through the barricade of brown snow, and trips, sprawling in the street. Drivers entering and exiting the parking lot maneuver around him. The arms on the gate go up and down. He lies there on his side with half his ass showing under his jacket until, with infinite slowness, he begins to pick himself up. The bottle, he discovers, is still safely cradled under his arm, and bearing it thus, he begins his journey up the street on boneless legs, back toward the library, to the bench beside the book return slot. The guard and the librarian watch him as he sits, and then go back inside.
He sits there as the snow falls and night begins to intensify the blue all around. On the bench, cradling the bottle, he folds over on himself and sits with the permanence of a doll on the top shelf of a woman’s girlhood closet. From the window above, the guard calls the dispatcher, and in five minutes’ time the wail of the engine can be heard as it rolls through the intersection and turns onto the street. The kid doesn’t look up. Three men climb down and stand around him. One sets his medical bag down on the snow and puts his hands in his pockets. They talk to the kid and to each other, kicking the snow from their boots as the engine throws its red lights over the library, the veterans’ memorial, and the United Church of Christ. One of them takes the bottle from him, unscrews the cap, and sniffs it.
The ambulance arrives by three after 5 with its lights off. The medics get out and lift the kid onto his feet and into the back of the ambulance where, for the sake of protocol, they guide him down onto the gurney. The fireman with the bag hauls it into the engine unopened. The others climb up, and the engine pulls away quietly, as does the ambulance several minutes later, onto a separate cross street.
The onlookers at the windows and on the sidewalk whose interest was piqued at first by the guard on his phone and then by the red lights have already returned to their browsing. The guard goes back to his office, the librarian to her computer screen. The snow continues to fall and muffle the sounds of the traffic and the night to darken until it reaches urban twilight, dimly mauve on the underside of the sky.
It was midmorning before the caravan was under way. Those too drunk to travel were shown every consideration and room made for them among the chattels in the carts. As if some misfortune had befallen them that could as easily have visited any among them.
~ Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
Andrew Steiner (’12) is a Grand Rapids native. He’s a fiction writer with a day job at Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank. You can also find him working part-time for Ham Family Farm, pulling weeds, planting seeds, and slinging produce at the Fulton Street Farmers Market.